I once attended a meeting with a client who (to cut a long story short) was questioning the point of doing SEO for his local businesses when all he could see in local search results was the local pack and adverts. He had a point.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a local pack is, here is an example for my local area below:
The local pack results are usually displayed when Google or Bing detects that the most relevant search result will be a local one. The problem for website owners who don’t feature in it is that most people probably won’t to scroll down to click on anything below these results.
This can make doing SEO seem like a futile exercise when the local pack and Google ads combined can occupy nearly a quarter of the first page of search results.
As everyone in the search industry knows, the number of clicks declines dramatically the further down the page your website appears in those search results.
The chart below from advancedwebranking.com shows that if a website occupies position 1 on the first page they can expect to enjoy a 36.5% click through rate on average compared to just 5% of clicks for position 5.
So if you are cracking open the champagne celebrating a page one position, don’t expect a torrent of visitors when what you’ll probably get is a trickle.
If your website is towards the bottom of page one in the organic listings, you will need to sit there being very patient. Curiously there is very little difference in click through rate between the bottom of page one and the click through rates for page 2. The click through rate is even worse for mobile search results.
The good news is the client I mentioned earlier failed to see the bigger picture about SEO. SEO is as much about finding opportunities to gain those coveted top spots as it is for optimising purely for the organic search results.
One thing is certain though. If your local business isn’t appearing near the top of the search results pages you might have a problem.
So how do we solve this problem of getting your business into the local pack? Let’s unravel the mysteries with these 7 tips.
1. Display an address on your website and be consistent
Local optimisation starts with your website. Make sure you have your up-to-date business address displayed on your website. It is also useful to include a map of where your business is located and importantly the location and address must be consistent across all the other websites your business name appears on.
2. Create and optimise a Google/Bing Business Page
It’s easy and free to set up Google and Bing business pages. Simply go through the instruction on how to set up a page and pinpoint your business address on your local map. The listing will need to be verified so any address provided should be accurate. Ideally this address should be within the boundaries of the town or city you are targeting. This isn’t always possible unless you buy or rent an office or use your personal address but don’t be tempted to use a virtual address. Registering an address in the same building occupied by several other businesses with the same address can make it less likely you’ll appear in the local pack.
3. Ensure your web pages are optimised for local search
Next up, you will need to optimise the pages of your website for local search results. If your website ranks prominently in organic search results, it stands a better chance of also appearing in the local pack. On page optimisation includes meta titles and descriptions as well as the copy presented on your web pages.
4. Set up social media pages for your local business and be active
While there is no proof that social signals will get you into the local pack, they should not be discounted. If they feature your business address then this will provide another signal that your business is a legitimate one with its base in a particular locality. In my experience, however, even popular social media pages on Facebook don’t guarantee a prominent ranking in the search results or local pack when they are not combined with all the other signals mentioned. The strength of social signals is somewhat overrated.
5. Seek links from local business directories
Directory sites such as Yell provide a good way to gain localised links and provide a further local signal. One thing to note is directories should be good quality and be relevant to your business. Anything else will be seen as spam. Local chamber of commerce websites are also worth looking into but you will need to become a member to have your website featured and this will involve a significant financial investment over time if you are just in it for a link.
6. Work on improving click through rates
You’re unlikely to be too concerned with click through rates if your website doesn’t already feature on page one but there are suggestions in the SEO community that high click through rates correlate with higher rankings. As I mentioned earlier higher rankings in local search can help your website get into the local pack.
7. Encourage people to review your business
If your business is receiving lots of reviews this will show that customers are engaging with it. Also once you are in the local pack then you probably want your business to stay there. One way to bolster your position in the local pack is to gain lots of reviews via your Google Business listing. People can and do abuse this by hiring people to leave reviews for them which is unethical and very much in the news at the moment but for those of us who are honest then why not encourage real customers to leave some positive feedback from time to time?